CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals felt a backlash when they drafted running back Joe Mixon in the second round, acknowledging they were taking a risk.
Three years later, they’ve made a long-term commitment.
Mixon signed a four-year, $48 million contract extension through the 2024 season on Wednesday, a vote of confidence for a player who has rehabilitated his image and evolved into one of the league’s top running backs.
“Upstairs they definitely value me in a way a lot of people probably won’t,” Mixon said, referring to the front office. “I just wanted to show my love to here and finish my career here.”
The Bengals drafted Mixon in the second round in 2017 out of Oklahoma, where he was suspended for punching a woman in the face. The Bengals drew a backlash with the choice, prompting owner Mike Brown to acknowledge they were “taking a risk” on Mixon because he’s so talented.
Mixon has avoided trouble and emerged as one of the NFL’s top running backs. He was entering the final season on his original contract.
When the two sides closed in on a deal, Mixon sought out Brown after practice and thanked him for the chance.
“It means everything,” Mixon said. “It just shows the complete trust they have in me as a player and a person. I believe that’s what stuck out with Mike Brown more than anything — the person I am off the field, especially around the community and teammates and everything like that.”
Mixon has run for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons in spite of an offensive line that struggled to open holes. He’s only the fifth Bengals back with multiple 1,000-yard seasons, joining Corey Dillon, Cedric Benson, James Brooks and Rudi Johnson.
Mixon will be a focus of the offense with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow moving into a starting role with limited practice time and no preseason games. The Bengals took Burrow first overall in the draft after finishing 2-14, matching the worst mark in franchise history.
“I don’t think he’s your typical rookie,” Mixon said. “He’s definitely going to be a great guy in this league for years to come. I hope I can finish my career here with him.”
The Bengals have been unable to reach agreement on a long-term extension for receiver A.J. Green, who returns this season on the franchise tag. Coach Zac Taylor said one of the priorities was getting a solid cast to help a rookie quarterback through a difficult transition.
“There’s no hiding that,” Taylor said. “That’s a real part of what’s going on.”
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